Challenge: On 1 July 2007, the Victorian Government banned smoking inside licensed venues. Butt litter was expected to increase significantly unless action was taken. Cigarette litter already constituted 56% of Victoria’s litter stream. Sustainability Victoria recognised the need for a campaign to change smokers’ behaviours.
Insight: When targeting butt litter messages to smokers, the public relations campaign needed to be mindful that socially many smokers already felt persecuted. The campaign’s message couldn’t point the finger at them or lay blame. The campaign’s creative ‘Don’t be a Tosser – Bin Your Butts’, therefore used humour to capture their attention.
Following extensive research and stakeholder consultation, a campaign was developed focussing on changing smokers’ behaviour at venues identified most at risk of increased littering. Harnessing hospitality industry and local government involvement activities aimed to minimise pressure on local governments and pubs and clubs and make it easier for them to take an active role in the campaign. This included providing bin infrastructure and promoting cleanliness.
Campaign: The public relations campaign encouraged a collective approach to reducing butt litter between the smoker, licensed premises, local government and state government. Campaign toolkits were provided to pub and club owners and local government staff. An incentive scheme was introduced to encourage licensed premises to buy appropriate butt bins. Radio, bus shelter and convenience advertising and a state-wide media campaign raised awareness of the issue and kept it on the public’s agenda. ‘Butts Champs’ took to the streets handing out ‘Don’t be a Tosser’ personal ashtrays and extensive media publicity highlighted the problem and what needed to be done about it.
Results: The campaign achieved a major increase in the number of smokers binning their butts, and no increase in butt litter, demonstrating that smokers’ behaviour changed. Butt littering behaviour fell by almost half. Independent evaluation found 73% of targeted venues actively supported the campaign and 66% of Victoria’s local governments participated in the campaign. Media publicity firmly placed the issue on the public’s agenda –212 positive electronic and print media items were achieved over four months with the majority highlighting key messages.
The public relations campaign was awarded an International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Gold Quill Excellence Award and a Public Relations Institute of Australia Golden Target Award in the environmental category.